Top ten things I HATE when it comes to romances in books

Image via The Broke and the Bookish

I couldn’t resist participating in today’s Top Ten Tuesday, a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish. This week’s topic is right on the heels of Valentine’s Day, as it discusses what we love and hate when it comes to romances in books.

I’ve read plenty of romance, and whether it’s the main story or just a side-plot, there are standards that must be met for me to consider it worthy of my reading time. It’s no surprise that Fifty Shades of Grey breaks pretty much all of these rules, considering just how crappy it is. Since the movie adaptation is about to hit theaters, why don’t we take a few more stabs at the series while we vent about what we despise in romances?

Haters, let’s start hating! Here are the top ten things I HATE when it comes to romances in books:

The look of a guy with mommy issues

1. Sob story backgrounds to justify normal behavior. In Fifty Shades, Christian Grey’s mother was a drug-addicted prostitute who committed suicide, an excuse he uses for enjoying BDSM. Say it with me: Boo. Flipping. Hoo. While it’s a tiring trope to make a character orphaned or ‘troubled’ to make him more likable, it’s especially annoying when authors do it to justify typical human behavior. There’s nothing wrong at all with BDSM as long as it’s consensual, and Grey’s backstory just creates the false impression that his kinkiness is a sickness. Commitment-phobic because your parents are divorced? Distrusting because your ex cheated on you? Call the whambulance. You’re not a special snowflake; you’re normal. Now get over your sob story and become a better person!

White people almost writing: a crappy attempt by Nicholas Sparks

2. Excluding the vast majority of society. Hey, romance novelists! Where are all the people of color? How about LGBT characters? Would it kill you to write about men shorter than 5’10”, or women who are larger than a size 6? Maybe I’m not reading the right books, but most of them seem to be about stereotypically attractive white people, and lord knows there’s enough of those in romance. How refreshing would it be to see more interracial or gay couples? Reading has been shown to increase empathy, so including more diversity in books will in turn better society’s tolerance. Get to it, writers! The world depends on you!

3. No secondary characters. Just because you’re writing romance doesn’t mean you’re excused from writing sidekicks. Your main characters had friends and family before they met, and those people didn’t disappear once they hooked up. Bella Swan sacrifices her mortality and her normal teenage life for vampire love; that doesn’t make her romantic, it makes her a stupid jerk. Don’t all Twilight fans realize that Bella gets the lovely opportunity of watching her parents and all her friends die? If your love interests “complete” each other, then congrats, you’re writing a crappy romance. How about making them complete on their own? Make love the frosting, not the whole damn cake.

Lighten up, Grumpy!

4. Why so serious? We get it: your love interests have never had chemistry like this before. No one in the world has ever experienced passion at this epic level. Ho hum. Too many romances have been written about brooding, angsty men and the cold, uptight women that they turn into sensual vixens. Everyone should check out Vicki Lewis Thompson’s Nerd series if they want excellent examples of how playfulness can be sexy. Let’s face it, falling in love can be painfully awkward, and if you can’t laugh at yourself, then I don’t care about your happily-ever-after.

5-10. Bad sex. Okay, I tried to make ten unique complaints, but I realized that most were on this particular subject, so I’m grouping them together. Let’s be honest, nobody reads Playboy for the articles, and nobody buys romance novels to read about two characters holding hands. #SorryNotSorry!

What makes sex bad in books? Let me count the ways:

5. Calling your lover by name way too frequently. I’m talking to you, Mr. Grey and Ms. Steele. If you have to reference your lover’s name that often, whether it’s inside or outside the bedroom, might I suggest name-tags?

6. Referring to your lover’s nether regions with obnoxious terms. I swear, if you use the phrase “velvet-covered steel,” I will stab you in the face. Same goes for rods, members, nubs, and love buttons. You don’t have to talk like a doctor, but don’t talk like a middle-schooler taking her first shot at fan-fiction either (*cough* E.L. James *cough*). If you wouldn’t use the term in real life, don’t write it down!

7. Gasping at your lover’s well-endowed package. Cue eye-rolling! There’s nothing wrong with admiring the male form, but if your sex scene begins with a gasp and a “But…will it fit?” then you need to go back to Creative Writing 101. Not all men are porn stars, and that’s totally fine. It’s about quality, not quantity. I could add something about boats and the ocean, but I’m pretty sure you get what I mean.

8. Expecting climactic results with little-to-no foreplay. This is my biggest pet peeve in all erotic media: it’s all reward and no work, creating generations of men who are horrible in bed. No man’s “member” is so magical that he can flat-out ignore his partner’s pleasure. If your male protagonist doesn’t make a stop downtown, you can bet I’m throwing your book out the window.

9. Having an inner goddess. Imaginary friends are for children, and there’s absolutely nothing sexy about that. Your inner monologue doesn’t need a spokesperson providing commentary. If you’re having a great time between the sheets, just say so! The inner goddess trope in Fifty Shades is so absurd that even Cosmopolitan magazine makes fun of it–a huge red flag that the book really does suck.

10. Not making it safe! Look, no one is saying that contraception is a turn-on. But you know what’s definitely NOT sexy? STDs. Even Mr. and Ms. Perfect are at risk, and since they most likely fell in lurrrrvvvveeee in only a matter of weeks, they better wrap it up after whipping it out. I also feel inclined to make a joke about life’s most common sexually transmitted disease–babies–but I’ll leave that to comedic genius Donald Glover:

Alright, on that note, I’ll see myself out! There you have it: the top ten things I hate the most when it comes to romances in books! I hope everyone has a wonderful Valentine’s Day! You’ll find me at the movie theater, hate-watching Fifty Shades, of course. I’m taking one for the team, so you don’t have to! Don’t forget to come back to Book Club Babe this weekend for my review!

23 thoughts on “Top ten things I HATE when it comes to romances in books

  1. Hi, I commented yesterday about your article of the book Frankenstein and asked you about your tastes on romance books. I read your article and I’m glad someone despises Fifty Shades of Grey, as much as I do. I haven’t read the book, but I understand the plot and where the story is heading. According to womens comments, Christian Grey is the modern prince charming, and that, my friend, not only is it ridicules but also unfortunate, since I’m a person who sticks on to fairy tales. I’m not saying that there’s such thing as the “perfect man”, but it at least gives hope to some readers, that somewhere out there there’s someone who is meant for you.
    I want to express with honesty and purity what I do, as a writer, following some of your points.

    1. Sob story backgrounds to justify normal behaviour.
    You have an AWESOME point when you mentioned that Christian Grey’s mother, being a drug-addic gives an excuse for using BDSM as an enjoyment, and I have no doubt people in this world share his “trauma”, but I wonder, does Christian overcome that trauma in the book? If not, then the whole book is crap. My point is, that unfortnatly, there are people who do have a sad background to justify their normal behavior. One examble is one of my female characters, inspired by my collegue I onced had. Her boyfriend cheated her 3 times and my collegue is dating a girl, because she can’t trust men. In my opinion, that sucks and it’s stupid, since as a man, you can’t judge the whole gender by your past experience! Well, my character went through the same thing and she’s having a hard time trusting men, but she’s a hero, you see? She hates being stuck in life and still has the hope that there WILL be some guy convinient for her. You see what I mean? Even though I do add sobby story background in some of my characters, I help them overcome it. As a omnnicient narrator, I somehow take the roll of God. I add secondary or third characters to soport those who are living in hell. Such as friends, family and why not lovers, they are all part of there struggles. But what I rescue also is that, you don’t need to expect no one to overcome your issues. I also believe in female warriors, who just had enough with their own childish attitudes and puts their sad past beside and presses toward their goal to become better persons.

    2. Excluding the vast majority of society.
    As a white writer (I know that sounds stupid), my very first novel shares an African-American girl, falling in love with a white male and the other way around. I believe in diversity, since you would have to be blind to not notice that we live in a world of so. Writing a story about LGBT? I have an idea. Later on, I’ll write a story about it, why not.

    3. No secondary characters.
    I believe, just like you, that you don’t necesarry need to complete youself with someone else. People who go through that, need to give time to discover more about themselves and find their deepest potential. In one of my books, my character, like I mentioned in point 1, takes the time to discover more of herself, after years of deep depression, due to her experience with her first boyfriend. And in general, descovering ourselves, is something that we all should do, if we’re experiencing traumas that makes us depend on others and, on the other hand, lose total confidence to receive the help of others.

    4. Why so serious?
    Ok, I get it. Some people take too serious with falling in love, especially when they swear that in such short time, they’re gonna marry. I totally agree with you. Love is sopposed to be like a roller coaster. There will be ups and downs, and either you hang on to it and hope you don’t get sick, even though you will, or rather throw your hands up and go with the flow and have fun for Pete’s sake!

    I’ll stop here, since there’s no need to go on. I really had fun knowing your opinions about romance books. Though I believe I can’t satisfy the whole world, I hope my books make it to their shevels, instead of the trash.
    Like I said, keep on the good writing. You’re a very fun person, though very demanding when it comes to tastes, but that’s totally fine! I like that very much. It challenges me, as a writer, and I love challenges.

    Take care! 😀

    P.S. Please forgive my grammer. My battery is running off and I have no time to grammer-check it. Besides, me and my dad share the same charger and he’s using it now lol.

  2. It always bothers me when two characters have sex and not a single thought is spared when it comes to protection. This usually happens with dystopian or apocalyptic books, but just because the world has gone crazy doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant or find yourself with an STD.

  3. Can’t argue with any of your points — awesome list! And yes, Christian Gray’s unnecessary tragic childhood as an excuse for his “singular” tastes is stupid and just one more piece of the obnoxiousness of the 50 Shades book (which, okay, I admit to reading… all three). And I love that Twlight = girl moves to new town where it rains. Love obsessions in fiction make me mad. I can’t help thinking — if Bella were your (my) teen-age daughter, would I feel okay about all this? Argh.

  4. Ha, yes! I love your post, like all of it. I can’t stand when people use names constantly in books, it drives me crazy. I can go years without ever saying someone’s name and yet these characters can’t go three sentences. (Also it’s because they were twins and I totally couldn’t tell them a part half of the time…so no names were ever used, lol). And that gasping thing…it’s like they don’t get their basic anatomy.

  5. I literally love everything about this post. I refused to read FSoG partly on principle and partly because of how horrid I hear the writing is and this entire post had me laughing out loud while STILL pointing out so many important things. Like how irritating it is when things like safety are ignored because it’s thought to be “unsexy.” You know what’s unsexy? Risking your health.

  6. L. O. L. Some of these are brilliant! 2 and 3 are fabulous – I really do think a lot of romantic fiction adds to the negative cycle that without another half we aren’t a whole, and we’re just spending all of our lives looking for that other piece of the jigsaw to complete us, which is terrible! I’ve thought that way in the past, and I know A LOT of people who still do, and it’s so dangerous and self-destructive and we really need to break away from it! R x

  7. 8. Expecting climactic results with little-to-no foreplay. So much this. I wrote something very similar in my list. The worst thing about it is that this myth may have been started by men, but has been perpetuated by women! I’m sure in a lot of cases it’s wishful thinking, but it still isn’t helpful.

  8. I LOL’ed pretty hard at all the 50 Shades references. I have a love hate relationship with it. It’s terrible literature, but is sure entertaining. I am totally watching the movie this weekend too btw – in fact, the same day I come see you. BWAHHA

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